Day 931

download

Making everything better.

Sweetest memories come from mundane everyday activities.

When Saagar and I went for our weekly shopping, he loved to take full charge of steering the trolley around. He wouldn’t want me to touch it. Sometimes I would mistakenly place a hand on it and get a glare from him. Other times I would deliberately touch the trolley with the tip of my little pinky, just to get a reaction from him. I was never disappointed. He obliged. We also had a ritual of rewarding ourselves with a chocolate éclair each, on our way home.

Soon after Day 0, I couldn’t manage to go to that supermarket without a major heart-break. I would stand in front of the bakery section and cry like a school kid with sobs and tissues and both my fists covering my eyes. It didn’t matter who was around. It didn’t matter that I made a spectacle of myself. It just happened.

Today, it didn’t happen. We went there and finished our shopping. We went to the bakery section. Si stood beside me and put his hand on my shoulder as we got our chocolate eclairs. We went to the car-park, stood in the sun and enjoyed our sweet rewards. It felt like Saagar was there. He was there in our hearts and minds.

The Japanese have a word, kaizen. Kai means change and zen means good. Kaizen is based on the philosophical belief of continuous, incremental improvement. It believes that everything can be changed for the better. Nothing is ever seen as a status quo – there are continuous efforts to improve which result in small, often imperceptible, changes over time. These small changes add up to big changes over the longer term.

Getting better at getting better.

 

 

 

Day 929

IMG_1006

Loveliest stranger

“Hi.

Whether this will reach you I do not know, whether this will cause you pain I hope not as that is the opposite of my intention! I have hummed and harred over sending this message to you as I am not usually one for publicising my feelings or feeling like I am getting involved in other people’s business but I just wanted to send you a message.

I only learned yesterday of saagars death. A photo came up on my news feed with the quote ‘gone but never forgotten’. I read in to the articles I found on his profile and was instantly shocked and completely saddened by what I read.

First of all my thoughts go out to all of you and your family and friends, I can not begin to imagine how traumatic the last two years have been. I met saagar when I must of been about 16 years old, I was on a train coming back from Exeter and he got on somewhere between there and London. I was at a table with my revision books out, I had my French GCSE exam the next day. He sat opposite me and we instantly started talking. We did not stop talking for the entire 2 hours and we helped each other with French (he later admitted that he has chosen to sit by me because he saw my French books and had the same exam the next day!), he offered me his carrots and humous, we talked about the gym, drumming, his girlfriend at the time, who he’d been to stay with. I can honestly say that he was and still to this day is the loveliest stranger I had ever met. He was gorgeous, funny, talented and charming and we got on incredibly well in such a short space of time. We kept in contact via Facebook and unfortunately lost touch over the years and I never got to physically see him again, but I will never forget meeting him. I am so sorry for your loss and again am sorry if this message upsets you, I just want you to be proud of the amazing man that you brought up and I will forever cherish those few hours that i spent with him x”

(Message from EH on FB Messenger dated 6/8/2016. Discovered yesterday.)

Your message does not upset me E. I have always been proud of him and always will be. Thank you very much for taking the time to write to me.

Day 925

Vulnerability. Not weakness.

Stories are data with a soul. Researcher and storyteller Brene’ Brown has taken the time to take a deep hard look at shame and vulnerability.

She believes that ‘connection’ is neurobiologically why we are here.

Shame is fear of disconnection or not feeling like you are worthy of connection. For example, not good enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, not rich enough and so on. All experiences of excruciating vulnerability.

After 6 years of researching ‘Shame’ she took a closer at a sub-group of individuals with ‘Worthiness’, people with a strong sense of love and belonging who believe they are worthy of love and belonging. She called them  ‘Wholehearted’. This group had a few remarkable  traits:

  1. Courage – to be imperfect
  2. Compassion – ability to be kind to themselves and others
  3. Connection – ability to give up the idea of perfection

They fully embraced their vulnerability. They believed that vulnerability makes them beautiful. They were willing to reach out their hand first, to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. It was not comfortable but they did it anyway.
Vulnerability is also the birthplace of tenderness, belonging, love and joy.

What makes us vulnerable?
The simplest things like asking for help, waiting for the doc to call back, initiating sex, loosing a job, asking someone out on a date and many more.

Why do we struggle with vulnerability?
The uncertainty is too uncomfortable. So we numb it.

At present, we are most highly addicted, medicated and obese populace ever.
We can’t selectively numb feelings.
When we numb vulnerability we also numb joy and connection.

The ways in which we deal with our discomfort with vulnerability are:

  1. We make everything uncertain, certain, eg- religion.
  2. We Blame- a way to discharge pain and discomfort.
  3. We Perfect – most dangerously our children.
  4. We pretend – like what we are doing doesn’t have an effect on people.

We need to let ourselves be seen.
To love with our whole hearts even if we are unsure.
To practice Gratitude despite the uncertainty because our vulnerability means we are alive.
Lean into joy and believe – I am enough.
That enables us to be kinder and gentler to the people around us and to ourselves.

Ref:

Book :
Daring Greatly by Dr Brene Browm
TED talk by Dr Brene Brown on Power of Vulnerability:

Day 923

The idea of this blog was conceived in a state of utter shock and numbness. All I knew was that no one should suffer alone. I didn’t want anyone to experience the pain that was in me.  All I wanted was to immortalise Saagar. I wanted to continue having him in my life on a daily basis. This blog was and is, my sacred time with my son. On some days it’s my life jacket. On others it’s a luminous shrine or a punch bag, a podium with a loud speaker or an art gallery, a story-telling exercise or a tear-soaked handkerchief, a rant or a vent.

Every week I hear back from people who have been touched by Saagar’s story.

Message from a Mum:

“I don’t know you my dear but I have to say your son is so beautiful and he is watching you from heavens and being happy that you are able to save so my kids by opening up …..virtual hugs from a mom who is dealing with the same disease your son fought i was able to hug my daughter today as i knew more what she is dealing with because of you rather than getting frustrated with her ……..thanks from the bottom of my heart for correcting me in dealing with this disease.”

Message from a lovely young lady:

“Hi S. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you. I just wanted to say that when we met last summer and we had an emotional conversation about Saagar and life in general. Something definitely struck a chord with me. I’ve spent my whole life since I was a child, running away from my mental health issues. I had a complete breakdown shortly after seeing you. I’ve just been discharged from the Home Treatment team after a very difficult period. I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and am on the waiting list to receive the right therapy. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you because I think if I hadn’t had that conversation with you I wouldn’t have been able to open up to my family and ask for the help I desperately needed. I’ve been wanting to message you for a while but it’s taken me some time to accept that I have a mental disorder. I read your blog all the time  and it’s inspired me to write my own about my own thoughts and experiences. Thank you for the amazing work you are doing to raise mental health awareness. Sorry about the mammoth text. I hope you are well and your yoga retreat plans are going well. Love, Z. x”

(Z’s blog: http://notasimplemind.wordpress.com)

Thank you! We are together. Never alone.

 

 

 

Day 921

Lady’s fingers

IMG_0629

Naani’s food is the best in the world. Yes. Much better than Mamma’s. That is a fact and Mamma agrees without the slightest reservation. She is happy to continue being Naani’s student forever. Naani’s chicken curry is the bestest ever and she even manages to make vegetables taste yummy!  – These lines would accurately reflect Saagar’s feelings.

Naani is my mother. I am spending some time with my folks back home and life is largely about food.  Mangoes, ice-coffee, fried fish, momos and idlis form a fraction of a vast list that is adding further vastness to my waistline and other lines. Summer offers up only a few vegetables of which ‘bhindi’ or ‘okra’ is a big favourite in our family. The particularly yum preparation is the spicy, stuffed one. Uncooked it looks like the image above.

Here’s how , for 3-4 people:

300 grams of tender okra – cleaned, dried, topped, tailed and slit along the length.

For the stuffing:

Salt to taste
Turmeric powder – half tsp
Red chilly powder – half tsp
Coriander powder – 5 heaped tsp
Dried mango powder – 1 tsp
Garam masala – 1 tsp
Method:
Stuff the okra with the mixture of dried spices above.
Heat 1 tablespoon of mustard oil till lightly smoking. Splutter 1 tsp of cumin seeds in it, add the stuffed okra and cook until soft. Serve hot. Garnish with roasted sesame seeds before serving.

IMG_0632

Saagar loved this dish. We often cooked it together. I prepared the okra and the spice mix and he put them together. We had it with yellow masoor daal and plain basmati rice.

Today, we made bhindi, sending him our love and blessings.
We missed him at the dinner table. A lot.

Day 915

A simple source of hot water in Delhi is the sun heating up supply pipes. Very eco-friendly.

Another simple yet highly un-eco-friendly source is an immersion rod. I used it today after about 3 decades. It was like revisiting my university days. The plastic bucket and the broad clip reminded me of the 2 parallel burn marks on the edge of the light blue bucket in college. The soft hissing sound of the frantic molecules was all too familiar. Seeing the little eddies set off by the heat waves made me smile. All those times when I had completely forgotten about the water and got distracted only to come back to the horror of half a bucket or less of absolutely boiling hot water! Adding just the right amount of cold water was crucial especially at the peak of winters.

The geyser with a red and a green light is another old friend. My brother lives with his family in a rented house in a little village in India. The landlord and his wife live in part of the house with a separate entrance.  For some reason, the guest-room (my room) bathroom geyser is shared with the land-lord. The switch happens to be in their house.  This is never a problem as most people are around most of the time. We forgot to ask them to switch it on in time, hence the immersion rod.

This kind of arrangement between neighbours, land-lords and tenants is normal here. It’s no problem. It’s perfectly workable. There is no desire to change it. I suppose things like this make it a close community. It would be quite unthinkable in more ‘advanced’ settings.

Fact: 4 days is the time it took for our next-door neighbour to find out that Saagar had passed away.

Ref:
Dying alone:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/27/anyone-can-die-alone-isolated-age-uk-loneliest-country

Britain, loneliness capital of Europe:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/britain-has-been-voted-the-loneliness-capital-of-europe-so-how-did-we-become-so-isolated-9566617.html

Day 893

It was an evening of sharing Saagar’s story with a group of lovely young women. We talked about the art of listening non-judgementally. We practiced the skill and found it tricky. We noticed the strong urge to jump in with solutions and ‘fix it’. We found silent pauses awkward.

We explored the things that stop us from listening – a thousand things knocking about in our own head already, our own stress levels, fear of having to take action, fear of saying the wrong thing, I am not qualified, it’s not my job, and so on. Most of the reasons came from a judgement of ourselves or the situation.

Out of the blue, a thought ran clearly through my mind and before I knew it, I was speaking it out loud. I was reminded of a constant grievance I used to have with Saagar. I would request him to not leave utensils in the kitchen sink after use. How difficult could it be to put the dishes into the dish-washer? But, I often found dishes left in the sink. That small thing pushed my buttons. I would tell him off for being lazy and for not respecting this small request I made of him. I judged him. I couldn’t see that he was depressed.

Judgements come from the head.
Connection comes from the heart.
Harsh judgements create great distances between hearts.

I must not judge myself too harshly now. I am learning. Mindfully and heartfully.